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The 80% Principle: Unlocking Resilience in Membership Organizations

Updated: Apr 18

In the ever-evolving landscape of membership organizations, surviving through economic downturns is a challenging task. However, there exists a powerful strategy that can make a substantial difference in the face of recessions – the 80% principle.

In this blog post and podcast, we’ll explore how associations can not only weather the storm but also thrive during uncertain times.

The Reality of Recessions

Recessions are unavoidable realities that have plagued economies throughout history. The dotcom bubble burst in the year 2000 and the Great Recession of 2008 serve as poignant reminders of how extreme highs can be followed by crippling lows. As we navigate the post-pandemic era, the prospect of another economic downturn looms large.

The 80% Principle Unveiled

I’ve had more than two decades of experience working with associations, and I want to emphasize the importance of the 80% principle. This concept revolves around focusing 80% of resources, time, and energy exclusively on members. Whether individuals work for or volunteer with membership organizations, this principle holds the key to unlocking resilience.

Prioritizing Members: The Path to Success

When associations prioritize their members and genuinely address their needs, they pave the way for success during a recession. Members join associations with the expectation of finding solutions to their problems. Therefore, during times of crisis, the demand for what the association provides should increase rather than decline. It is the association’s responsibility to sustainably respond to these demands and foster a member-centric culture.

The Perils of Neglecting Members

Unfortunately, not all associations adhere to the 80% principle. Many fall into the trap of getting caught up in busywork, neglecting their members in the process. This chaotic and unsustainable approach can lead to membership decline and disengagement, creating challenges that transcend economic cycles. Members who feel neglected and unsatisfied are likely to leave, causing further strain on the association’s stability.

Applying the 80% Principle

Associations that prioritize their members in their strategy, decision-making, and daily operations are the ones that stand the test of time. To apply the 80% principle, associations should continually seek feedback from their members, engage in dialogues, and find ways to increase value and benefits for members. An authentic and sustained focus on members builds trust and loyalty, resulting in a resilient and thriving association.

In the face of economic uncertainties, the 80% principle offers a guiding light for membership organizations seeking resilience and growth.

By making members the core of their strategy, associations can weather recessions and emerge stronger on the other side.

It is time for membership organizations to embrace the 80% principle and create a future where they not only survive but thrive, regardless of economic challenges.

Stay tuned for more insights on the Membership IQ podcast, where we explore a variety of strategies and trends for membership association leaders.


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